For all the D2C brands out to reduce consumer’s retail frustration, I have to admit I’m most fascinated by the ones trying to cure America’s massive healthcare headaches. So when I got the chance to speak with Melissa Waters, the new CMO of Hims and Hers, about the company’s plans to focus on the quality of its medical care, I jumped.
She tells D2C FYI what’s coming for the start-up, which currently offers more than 40 products, some requiring prescriptions, including erectile-dysfunction and birth control medications.
D2C FYI: You joined as CMO about five months ago, after working at Lyft and before that, Pandora. What’s it like?
Melissa Waters: Everybody involved is so passionate about this brand, and it’s exciting to get on board so early -- it only started in November of 2017. We're in such early days, focusing on things that impact tens of millions of people. The world is accomplishing so many of our daily tasks and functions on our phones, so naturally healthcare is moving toward that kind of mobile access.
D2C FYI: What’s your focus right now?
Waters: The management team is really energized. We brought on Patrick Carol, our chief medical officer, from Walgreens, a huge move as we continue to focus on the quality of care. And we just added David Kim, a new creative director, from Netflix.
We’re preparing to launch new products in new categories, and offer more to consumers. I’m also focusing on improving perceptions about the quality of our service.
Our doctors have an average of 20 years of private practice experience, and we have a great medical infrastructure. We get a lot of credit for our breakthrough marketing, but I don't think we get the same amount of credit for the efficacy of our medical offering.
D2C FYI: How will you communicate that to consumers?
Waters: We’ll keep doing product marketing, but also add in communications [where] we're talking more about the care we provide.
It depends on where people are in their journey. They might need to have more education about what we offer and why and how it works. If people are already familiar with us, they may need more information on products.
D2C FYI: People are getting used to D2C offers in many areas: razors, meal kits, clothes. But there’s less awareness about ways they can opt out of the frustrations of medical care. Is that hard to change?
Waters:The legacy of health care is that it started with the family doctor: You had a relationship. But over the last decade, there’s been the emergence of different services: One Medical, urgent-care clinics, or retail clinics at places like CVS.
The model is changing, and it’s digital. You start with mobile, and then determine whether or not you require an in-person visit. Many millennial and Gen Z consumers are saying, “This is exactly what I'm looking for.”
Handling healthcare remotely saves time, energy, money. The old way means taking time off from work to see a doctor and fill a prescription. They can order everything else on their phone -- why not medicine?
D2C FYI: Your company is built on products that are more embarrassing to discuss. Is it inherently more appealing to order them online?
Waters: Something like 30% of men start to see hair-loss patterns in their 20s. And upwards of 40% of men in the U.S. face erectile dysfunction at some point.
A principle of our brand is igniting conversations about health, talking about things that are stigmatized. To us, it’s a great opportunity to normalize these conditions. Same with birth control on the woman’s side.
D2C FYI: About women and birth control: We’re in an era where many people in government are trying to block access to birth control, like efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides birth-control services to something like 5 million women each year. How might that impact your business?
Waters: We see that as well. We are here to democratize access to sexual health for both men and women. We offer a wide range of birth-control options, and we’ve announced we’re adding more, including Plan B, a kind of emergency contraception. We're here to ensure that women have great access and great options.